Missouri's Beaver: A Guide to Management, Nuisance Prevention and Damage Control by Ron McNeely. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1995. Pp. 1-29 with illustrations.
This review (which is reprinted here with some revisions and changes) was originally published in The Probe, the newsletter of the National Animal Damage Control Association. For other items published in the Probe by Stephen Vantassel click Probe. We welcome writers, publishers videographers etc. to submit their materials for review. Call for Review Copies
Sometimes government documents lack sufficient information to be worth the time to even read them. This booklet is not one of them. Author Ron McNeely's credentials should make every reader take the content here very seriously. He has been a fur trapper for 40 years and a damage management biologist for the Missouri Dept. of Conservation for 21 years. Knowing what it takes to control beaver has made me even more impressed with the quality of the information contained in this booklet.
McNeely has covered all the bases. Pages 1-9 overview the history of the beaver. McNeely briefly relates the role beaver have had in Missouri's history both past and present. He then proceeds to detail the lifecycle of the beaver. Care is taken to provide basic biological and behavioral information without getting the reader bogged down into doctoral thesis issues or evidence. Just the facts needed to better understand and appreciate the beaver are provided. I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of a section highlighting the species economic value. This section explained that beavers provide low fat, high protein meat, glands for perfume and fur. This section was important because too often the financial value of wildlife is overlooked in ADC pamphlets. I appreciated the way it reminded people that beaver are a valuable resource that should be respected and treated as such. Perhaps more importantly, informing people that beaver have value will hopefully help them respond more rationally when beaver move from being pretty to being a pest. If a property owner realizes the economic value of the beaver, he will hopefully try to wait for fur season before having them removed.
The next section, which constitutes the majority of this 8 ½ x 11 size booklet, explains how to prevent and handle beaver damage. The information throughout this section is concise yet extremely practical. Appropriately enough, McNeely begins with no-lethal forms of control. Property owners learn how to protect trees, boat docks from gnawing damage. Property owners also learn how to respond to pond flooding. I found the information on overflow tubes to stop pond flooding to be most interesting. The reader should find the line drawings to be very helpful in explaining how they themselves can install these devices. I would like to caution the reader that the suggestions may not be legal in your own state. This booklet, while containing very valuable information, is keyed to Missouri law. Before enacting water drains or damaging dams, be sure to consult the wetland and wildlife laws in your state. Lethal control constitutes the second portion of responding to beaver damage. I appreciated the author's frankness that lethal control is often the most economical and effective method to stop damage. Given what happened in the town of Chelmsford, MA, I think that message should be shouted loud and clearly by all biologists before news cameras. As in other areas, McNeely is thorough. He discusses shooting and trapping. The trapping instruction is superb and should make any fairly inexperienced beaver trapper the information he needs to be a very competent one.
The final section of the booklet addresses trapping as a business. The author explains proper pelt handling techniques as well as recent prices paid for castor and beaver meat. As you may already tell by this review, I was completely impressed by the quality of this booklet both in content and form. The Missouri tax payers got their money's worth. What is even better is that us non-residents can benefit from their investment. I give this booklet the animal damage control grade of A+. My one criticism is the unfortunate use of the inaccurate term "live trapping". As I have written elsewhere, the term live trap should be removed from all technical trap discussions because it is simply too vague. Footholds, snares and box-traps are all live traps. Our continued use of the term live-trap to describe box trap just perpetuates the myth that footholds and other restraining devices kill. As any trapper knows, footholds don't kill, it's the set that kills.
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